New Starkville Oktibbeha school calendar has more breaks for students and teachers, more options for different learning needs

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – Tuesday, the board for the Starkville Oktibbeha County School District voted to adopt a new non-traditional calendar for the 2022-23 school year and beyond.

Starting July 26, 2022 and ending June 1, 2023 during the first run, the new academic calendar is designed to provide more breaks for students and teachers as well as help address the different learning needs of each child.

“End of September and through October, I’ve had teachers share with me about how they’re already burned out and tired this early in our school year,” says school district superintendent Dr. Eddie Peasant.

“We’re all dragging by the end of Christmas, looking for Thanksgiving and then from Thanksgiving, looking for Christmas,” says Armstrong Junior High Algebra teacher Xavier Perkins.

And that was before the pandemic disrupted classrooms across the country.

“We as educators have to be open to change,” Perkins says. “Understanding, with the last couple of years of COVID, the strains that have been placed on the education system as well as our students’ learning.”

For the SOSD, that change comes in the form of this calendar, which Dr. Peasant says they have been planning since 2020.

“It gives us opportunities within the school year to address the learning needs of our students throughout the year,” he says.

The new calendar still features 180 regular school days but the early start and late finish create 13 optional intercession school days.

For some students, the intercessions are a chance to participate in either the Accelerated or Enhanced Learning programs. For others, it’s a chance for a few days off during the fall (October 3 to 12) and spring (March 20 to 24).

Perkins, who has been teaching within the SOSD for 25 years, will be one of those helping with Accelerated Learning for students who need time to catch up and improve their grades.

“That’ll allow us to take care of it as the year progresses and hopefully that’ll curb students failing a class and having to worry about taking it in the summer,” she says. “We can deal with it throughout the year.”

Enhanced Learning gives students the opportunity to explore internships, job shadowing opportunities and advanced classes like robotics or culinary arts.

“To go beyond and do some hands-on experiments with things that they’re learning and putting some of it to work,” Dr. Peasant says. “Actually seeing it work, which we don’t really have time for in a traditional school day.”

With the extra breaks during the spring and fall, the hope is that teachers and students can bring that same first day of school energy throughout the year.

“Come back with fresh eyes, fresh minds and hopefully, a renewed spirit,” Perkins says.

Dr. Peasant says five or six school districts across Mississippi already have, or plan to have, similar calendars in place.

He expects that number to only grow in the future.

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